The Mount Above, The Wall Below: An Unparalleled Situation

As reported, the Reform Movement is sliding into a threatening phase of political activism as regards its rights to conduct non-Orthodox ritual practices, as the February arrangement pact sets out, at the Western Wall.

Following a growing reaction from Haredi, as well as Hardeli, opposition, including a visit Sunday by Minister Uri Ariel to the area, when he declared that he demands the government “to stand firm on the Status Quo”, we read:

“When we go to the Supreme Court, what we will demand is not to implement the compromise approved by the government,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel. “Rather, we will demand that an egalitarian worship space be allocated to us inside the area of the already existing Kotel.”

This is truly odd, bordering on the surrealistic.

The Reform movement, in the first instance, would be the last Jewish group one would expect to insist on being part of an act to consecrate a wall of ancient stones that served as a retaining support for the Temple that Herod enlarged where animal sacrifices were conducted.  Of course, I yield to their freedom of choice to do so but, nevertheless, I think it odd.  It is also odd the damage to the archaeological finds at the new section are being ignored by a stream of Jewish thought which prefers a more scientific-based approach, which archaeology is, rather than the more spiritual aspects of Judaism.

Secondly, I must admit that I think the court decision that was rendered in their favor on April 25, 2013, and upon which the present compromise was constructed, was a sleight-of-the-law.

The Jerusalem District Court decision of Judge Moshe Sobel interpreted the dependence of a 2003 Supreme Court decision regarding the restriction within the Law of Holy Places which obligates worshippers to pray and hold religious celebrations according to the “local custom” as meaning that for the past two decades a new “local custom” has arisen, that of the Women of the Wall, one which should be seen within a framework of national and pluralistic implications, not necessarily Orthodox Jewish customs.

In other words, Mr. Sobel disallowed centuries of practice, not to mention over 30 years of post-1967 custom, in favor of a new two decades custom.  A custom that is practiced but once a month by a very small number of persons versus the daily practices of hundreds of women and many thousands of men.

That, too, seems odd to me.

I should interject, at this point, that in my opinion, what happens on the other side of the mechitza, short of nakedness, licentiousness and general “dance-around-the calf” behavior, if fine.  I am simply mulling over the oddities and, what appear to me, the contradictions and hypocrisies in the situation.

A third element is that I am disturbed and disappointed that the Reform Movement heads and others of the egalitarian trend of worship are ignoring the Muslim opposition to their arrangement coming from the Waqf.  Not only is this a violation of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty’s Article Nine, but it gives a pass to the threat of violence as a political tool.

In op-ed pieces here in this paper years ago, I expressed full support for the essence of what the Women of the Wall wished to obtain: in the face of religious obscurantism, they deserve religious freedom.  But when I asked WOW activists, including Anat Hoffman, if they would support my campaign for parallel and equal rights that they desired at the Western Wall Plaza on the Temple Mount, all of a sudden my rights became problematic. Arabs oppose Jewish Temple Mount prayer, in any form and anywhere at any time.  A MK supporting the WOW group indicated that my rights would have to wait for a peace treaty. A Conservative Rabbi also opposes religious freedom because:

“…if we would build the synagogue there – with all the bloodshed it would involve, can you imagine what would be required to be able to go there and pray? How many soldiers and policemen would it require? Is this the time for another fight over the Temple Mount? Is that the most important problem we face?”

Odd.  The Haredim are violent, at times, but that is to be overcome, forcefully.  Muslims are violent and to that threat, Jews must yield.  The state’s institutions must yield.  The Law for the Protection of the Holy Places must not be applied.

These religious figures declare that there should be no parallel between the Mount above and the Wall below.

How God deals with all this, I can’t even imagine.